Indo-Russian relations: A new way forward

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In the first week of September 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Russia’s Far East Region, attended the Eastern Economic Forum and had talks with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two heads of states had a delegation talk at the India-Russia 20th Annual Summit.

The key discussions at the Summit included methods by which the two nations could strengthen cooperation in trade and investment, oil and gas, mining, nuclear energy, defence and security, air and maritime connectivity, transport infrastructure, hi-tech, outer space and people-to-people ties. In this meet, 15 Memorandums of Understanding(MoU) were signed in aforementioned sectors. Narendra Modi on his Twitter handle quoted that his visit to Russia was productive and has brought the two nations closer.

The bond which these two countries share are deeply rooted in the history, mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation going back to pre-independence India. The diplomatic alliance of these two nations started, when India wasn’t even an independent nation and was under the British rule, on 13th April 1947. Post-independence India had a few milestones to capture, mainly attaining economic self-sufficiency through investment in heavy industry.

Soviet Union proved to be a major investor in the areas of heavy machine-building, mining, energy production and steel plants. Upon India’s initiation of the Second Five Year Plan, 16 heavy industrial setups were initiated and 8 of them were initiated with the assistance of Soviet Union. Interestingly, this also included the foundation of Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) across India. The signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Soviet Union in 1971 added to the glory of two nations for strengthening of regional and global peace and security. In January 1993, post-dissolution of Soviet Union, India and Russia entered into a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.

Beginning in the 1990s, India had provided for an immense amount of line of credit in the technical and agriculture field to Russia. This partnership was a strategic one which has proven to be strengthening with time and the assimilation of the people from both nations has been a driving force for this cause.

At the beginning of the new century, when the Russian President Putin visited India, the characteristics of this partnership were revolutionised in unprecedented manners. The newly acquired partnership had an evolutionary approach. This strategic partnership institutionalised annual meetings between the two heads of states: The Prime Minister of India and the President of Russia and the frequency of the meet-ups of these nations increased. During the 2010 visit of President Dmitry Medvedev the relationship was elevated to the status of a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.

President Dmitry Medvedev commented on this union in 2009 by saying, “Relations with India have always been, and I am sure will be one of the most important foreign policy priorities of our country. Our mutual ties of friendship are filled with sympathy, trust and openness. And we must say frankly that they were never overshadowed by disagreements or conflict. It is valued and cherished in our country, in Russia, and in India. And we are rightfully proud of so close relations between our countries​”. From a periodof 2000-2017, eighteen Annual India-Russia Summits have taken place. The result of which reflects in the personal relations the two nations enjoy and thus, the close understanding they share.

Dialogue mechanisms between the two nations have been institutionalised in different arenas ranging in a wide spread follow-up. These are the Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), co-chaired by the External Affairs Minister of India and the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) co-chaired by the Defence Ministers of both countries. These meetings identify priorities and review cooperation on a regular basis and are key platforms to take our cooperation forward.

With regards to the Kashmir Issue, that is the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, Russia has backed India in the bilateral meeting. At the recent Annual Indo-Russian Meeting, both India and Russia agreed on no interference in the internal affairs of UN member countries. “​The Sides underlined the primacy of international law and emphasized their commitment to the purposes and the principles stated in the UN Charter including the inadmissibility of interference in the internal affairs of Member States.“. They have also discussed the Make in India initiative, wherein Russiahas expressed their enthusiastic participation with regards to businesses and reciprocally, inductions of Indian businesses and investment projects in Russian scenario. The Indian Prime Minister has also commented on the nuclear energy programs being a key to their ‘True Partnership’.

Unveiling ‘Look East, Act East’ policy a version brought to the world by Russia, India has extended a US$ 1 Billion Line of Credit to this version of Russia Far East Region (RFE). The Eastern Economic Forum set up with the intention to attract investment in the East Siberian and Arctic region, India extended its line of credit with the vision that this would help Indian businesses to grow there and in his words be the ‘take-off point for Act Far East’, this will further strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations. Several schemes and initiatives were launched which amounted to US$ 10 billion. In 2018, India had done business worth US$ 14.5 billion in the field of defence only.

The two nations are constantly identifying new areas of cooperation in which they can complement each other. These range from deep sea exploration to building knowledge-based economies based on science and technology, innovation, robotics and artificial intelligence, especially focussing on infrastructure, skill development, agriculture, ship building, railways, aviation and greater connectivity, especially people-to-people contacts. An emphasis on the Youth Cooperation and Engagement and cultural exchanges can be expected in the near future.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Vishwajeet Deshmukh from Government Law College, Mumbai.

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